Facebook is trying to make it easier to be a better person

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Source: Facebook

Facebook (FB) wants to make it a little easier to help people with new features that allow people to become a mentor for children, sign up to become a blood donor and help organizations like the Red Cross reach disaster victims faster.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new features at Facebook’s second annual Social Good Forum in New York on Wednesday.

Of course, while the Social Good Forum is meant to allow Facebook users to give and receive help, it also allows the company to provide a bit of good news during a time that has seen it repeatedly questioned for its role in allowing Russian agents to spread fake news in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Zuckerberg didn’t mention the matter, keeping the discussion to the day’s events, but it’s certainly not an issue that will go away anytime soon.

No transaction fees

The CEO did, however, kick off his keynote by explaining that Facebook will no longer charge transaction fees for donations made to nonprofits through Facebook’s charitable giving program.

“So now, 100% of the money that people donate on Facebook is going to go to the causes they care about,” Zuckerberg explained. “And I know this is something that a lot of you have talked to us about for a while, so thank you for the feedback.”

That’s a big deal, as it ensures your donation, at least when you send it through Facebook, will go directly to the people you want to help. GoFundMe, which is frequently used to raise funds for nonprofit campaigns, charges a 2.9% transaction fee. Of course, Facebook is an absolutely massive operation, so it’s not like those fees will hurt its bottom line.

Beyond cancelling transaction fees, Zuckerberg said the company will make a $50 million annual donation to charitable causes on Facebook.

Community Assistance

The CEO also announced that Facebook is expanding its Community Help tool to organizations like the Red Cross. Community Help, which was announced in February, allows individuals to ask for help when they’re in need, and others to offer help when they can. Zuckerberg explained how two friends from Texas A&M used the feature in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to save 20 people from the storm’s floodwaters.

By expanding the Community Assistance to disaster response organizations, Facebook says groups will be able to see when and where people need help and get to them quickly.

Blood donors and suicide prevention

Facebook said it will also expand its new blood donation feature. The current program, which was started in September in India, has already seen 4 million people register as donors. That’s an enormous new supply of blood for an area that Facebook said sees thousands of posts from people asking for blood donations each week.

In 2018, the feature will be rolled out to Bangladesh where there is a similar blood shortage. There’s no word on if the feature will come to the U.S., though.

Zuckerberg also gave the audience an update on Facebook’s suicide prevention initiative. The program, which has saved more 100 people so far, flags posts from individuals who express suicidal thoughts and then uses human moderators to reach out to first responders to help the person in need.

“So, now we’re starting to roll out these tools in most other countries around the world and that’s something that I’m really proud of the work that we’re doing there,” Zuckerberg said.

Mentoring

Finally, Facebook said it is launching a new mentoring and support program. Launching as a pilot with the help of iMentor and The International Rescue Committee, Mentoring and Support will allow people to volunteer as and search for mentors based on their specific needs.

Facebook says that matching mentors and their mentees will be handled by the specific nonprofits, which takes the task out of Facebook’s hands.

The program will also only be open to people 18 and older, which leaves out young people who might need help during their formative years.

“There’s no doubt that we live in a challenging time right now,” Zuckerberg said. “But one of the things that strikes me so much is the deep sense of optimism you all have.”

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.